Copy for a digital audience is much, much more than proper sentence structure, grammar and all the things your teacher graded you on in school. And, guess what…it is harder!
I say it is harder, but that is not completely true. In some ways it is much easier. I know I am talking out of both sides of my mouth so let me explain:
You are not held to any traditional, rigid rules of language at all.
But, you are obligated to write in a language to resonate with your target audience.
There are extremely successful people on the web who use poor grammar and (according to my upbringing) poor language all together. Their copy is splattered with profanity. Their paragraphs often are one word and one F—ing word. Their respect for proper decorum is totally absent. Yet they have a huge following.
Know Your Audience Intimately
The hardest part of writing content to build profits is letting go of the concept of being everything to everybody. Make a choice. Your business depends on it.
Once you have made a choice, start learning everything you can about your chosen target audience. What do they like and dislike? What time to they get up in the morning and go to bed at night? What do they fear and what do they love?
Until you know these things about your audience, you are worthless to them.
The reason you are worthless is because they will never know you exist. Your digital presence will be like a single jellyfish in the ocean looking for someone who wants to be stung. While you want the reaction from the person who wants to be stung and the moron who is seeking a jellyfish to sting them is searching…the ocean is too big. They are more likely to find one of the other thousands of jellyfish out there to satisfy their insane needs.
Big Fish in Small Ponds
The only way to be found is to claim your own small pond and speak the language of your audience in that pond.
Writing Content for Your Audience
Once you get the general premise of who to write for and how to speak to them, it becomes a scientific endeavor to complete the writing process. I was inspired to write this post based on an article by Michael Fortin. I have long admired his copywriting skill. While my list will be a bit different, it does not reduce the value of his article by the title of “How to Write Copy in Seven Steps”
- Start with the Audience: As a frequent ghostwriter, it is imperative for me to know my client and their relationship with their customer. Only when I know their readership well can I do a good job writing for them. Gathering the industry information is easy (see #2). Gathering the audience information can sometimes be challenging.
- Create a Swipe File: Nothing I profess about writing stirs the pot more than my insistence on learning the skill of copying. People with big brains and unlimited memories think the words springing from their superior brains is 100% original. I think the opinion is arrogant and misinformed. There is no such thing as 100% original. Intentionally researching what has been written by others is more honest and gives more opportunity to attribute the concepts to a more original source.
- Decide on a Format: I have what I call the SCP (Standard Content Piece). It is a structure for developing blog posts and articles I use almost every time I write. If you want a copy of my template, let me know and I will gladly share. However, within the general format are many variations. Do I want to tap into current events, personal stories, case histories of clients or something else? Each type of format shows up a bit differently.
- Begin Writing: One of my dearest friends is a former English professor at LSU. She used to tell me “There is no such thing as good writing…only good rewriting.” Because I write so much my original drafts are closer to done well. However, when I first submitted an article to a magazine way back in 1992, I rewrote the article at least a dozen times.
- Don’t Edit While Writing: Too many people abandon their writing task because they see all the flaws during the first draft and stop to correct them. Think about it, is this type of self-critical behavior a motivation or a hindrance??? Try to stay in a stream of consciousness using your swipe files as inspiration. Write at least 500 words before you stop to review.
- Read First Drafts Out Loud: When you read silently, you “hear” the words differently. Since the best web writing is conversational in tone, you need to hear it out loud.
- Rearrange and Rewrite as Needed: Don’t expect perfection in your writing. Instead, make it sound like the conversations you have every day with your clients and prospects.
The important thing to do at this stage is to publish. While your first articles may not be perfect, writing it over and over again will be frustrating and counterproductive. Think about how quickly the internet moves through content. If you get better with your writing over time, your clients and prospects might notice. Their impression will be positive about your willingness to be less than perfect until you polished your skills.
I know. What I am telling you is far from what you were taught. I believe everything I am telling you here. If you have questions or want to take a different position, let me know. You can make comments here on this blog or you can contact me directly at my email: Kate@KateWritesRight.com. I want to hear from you.